How to eat with grace on transit

By Madeleine Brown

As a child and into my teenage years, my parents were adamant we sat down as a unit for dinner every night. (If I ever wanted to make a point, requesting to eat my dinner by myself in front of the television downstairs in the basement did the trick.)  However, over the course of my undergrad between extra-curriculars, meetings for groups projects and (somewhat of) a social life I became accustomed to eating on buses, trains and subways. While mealplanning and bulk cooking solved the issue of what I could eat for these on-the-go meals, how to eat them with grace and without upsetting my fellow travel companions was another issue in itself. I share with you my advice for navigating this potentially socially destructive situation. I spent four years developing it through plenty of first-hand research—which is certainly more effort than I put into any other assignment.

No soup for you

When it comes to eating on transit, your number one goal should be to not spill the contents of your meal on not just yourself, but also other passengers. It seems obvious, but let me tell you I’ve been tempted by one too many soup recipes only to regret the decision to prepare them come the speed bump-filled exit out of my university campus. This same logic applies to other liquidly stews, chilis and—unless you have a secure lid and straw—smoothies.

What’s that smell?

Ask any of my high school friends what my greatest legacy was during those four years, they’ll likely respond with my salmon sandwiches. Yes, I ate canned salmon sandwiches for almost the entirety of my high school career. (On occasion I switched things up with tuna sandwiches.) While I never minded putting them through that—hey, they’re my friends—I realize in the company of strangers you get away with far less. So, aside from eventually tiring of canned salmon, I also tired of disapproving glances on transit. (I hope those were about my food and not something else about me…) Save your smelliest dishes for meals at home where beloved roommates can escape the unpleasant fumes. That said even if your food doesn’t have an unpleasant scent, should it have one at all you may consider securing your Tupperware lid between mouthfuls.

Don’t forget the cutlery

The subtitle says is all, but in case you didn’t get the message: don’t forget the cutlery. I think back to the a delicious ratatouille with polenta from last spring that I had to eat with my bare hands on the subway. Yes, I know this is common practice in many cultures, but it’s not in student culture. (Actually that too could be argued, but for the purpose of this post let’s not get into it.) First off, it’s awkward, secondly, you’ll definitely garner the odd look or two and, finally, unless you carry an endless supply of wet wipes where there’s transit, there’s often not a sink.

Such a show-off

Finally, above all, while eating on transit, keep your meal to yourself. Whether your mode of transportation officially bans the practice (I’ve broken that rule many times) or not, typically transit is not the time or place to show-off your culinary capabilities. Everyone is tired, hating life and hungry. So while they weren’t as smart as you and packed food, save the bragging for another time. Hide your Tupperware container in your backpack or purse and quickly fork or spoon out bitefuls. You’ll keep everyone else happy and your reputation intact.

How to eat with grace on transit
A student’s typical dinner table